Guildford - Cricket Ground
Woodbridge Road : GU1 4PS
Guildford - Cricket Ground : Map credit National Library of Scotland Guildford cricket club leased four acres of land from Lord Onslow as their ground, which became known as the Prince of Wales cricket ground as it was close to the Prince of Wales public house. The grass track at the ground was quite slow "by reason of its somewhat cramped area and the awkward turns on the entrance side." The first bicycle race at the ground was at an athletic sports meeting on August 6th 1877, which included a two miles bicycle race, for a first prize of two guineas. Three thousand people visited the event.

Guildford Bicycle Club was formed in May 1877 with five shillings annual subscription, Mr Denzil Onslow MP was the president. The club headquarters was at the White Horse Hotel and it was arranged that copies of the Bicycle Times would be freely available at the headquarters, for members. The newly formed Guildford BC held their first annual race meeting on August 30th 1879 on the cricket field "in the presence of a numerous and fashionable attendance", on a course marked out at 332 yards. The bicycle races were; a one mile open race which ran to five heats and a final a one mile open handicap, a one mile club handicap, a slow bicycle race and a five miles club championship race. John Keen was the handicapper for the meeting. The five miles Club Championship event was the race of the day and was won by F Cox on a 53 inch wheel from Herbert Bowyer on a 52 inch.

Guildford Athletic Club started to hold regular Whit Monday meetings at the ground, there were usually three bicycle handicap events - a local two miles race and one and three miles open races. The annual athletic meeting would be held for the next fifteen years with attendances around 2,000. Guildford Cricket Club also held their sports from 1882 with bicycle races and the Working Mens' Institute held their sports from 1883.

A large cyclists camp was held at nearby Shalford Park in 1886 and there were bicycle races at the cricket ground. The Guildford Institute describes the 1886 Southern Counties Cyclist Camp in Guildford. "The camp took place from 30 July to 5 August in Shalford Park, with races held at the cricket ground in Woodbridge Road. Many thousands went along to view the spectacle, and an array of additional entertainments and activities were provided to cater for them. The races consisted of six laps of the ground, with categories for tricycles, tandems and the "high ordinary bicycle" - better known as the Penny Farthing. The 1886 Guildford camp was so popular that it was repeated the following year on an even grander scale".

At the 1886 races at the ground, Harold Crooke of Guildford CC won the first Anchor Shield*, a trophy that was provided by the landlady of the Anchor in Ripley, a popular and very well-known venue for cyclists. Two years later, Crooke took the national high bicycle 100 miles record.

Race meetings continued to be held at the cricket ground until Lord Onslow gave the cricket club notice to quit the cricket ground in 1893, as he wished to sell the land for development. He offered a new piece of land at Dapdune Field to lease and a new Sports Ground was built there in 1895.

* The Anchor at Ripley, Surrey was the ‘Mecca of all good cyclists' from the 1870s to the 1890s and the Ripley Road was the ‘Most Famous Cycling Highway in the World'. The landlady, Annie Dibble, kept visitor books, which were signed by thousands of cyclists. The Anchor Challenge Cup was presented by Annie Dibble in 1886 for competition at the Southern Counties Cyclists' Camp. In the 1890s, when the camps finished, the trophy was taken over by G Lacy Hillier and in 1893 it was put up for the paced 12 hour race at Herne Hill. In 1899, the name of the trophy was changed to the Dibble (late Anchor) Shield and was competed for in the Anerley BC 12 hour race from 1899. The trophy race, then over six hours, moved to Crystal Palace in 1901.

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